Sunday, September 20, 2020

Shoe Dropping

Chuck C. Johnson making what looks like a white nationalist hand sign and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Ecuadorian Embassy, London, August 2017, via DCCC.

Don't know if you'll remember the story from about 80 years ago, wait no I mean in February, about how then-congressman Dana Rohrabacher (representing Orange County CA for the United Russia Republican party) had traveled to London to meet in the Ecuadorian embassy with Mr. Assange with a proposal:

Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”...

Rohrabacher denied it, of course, but in a curious way:

At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country.

“At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added.

He was just looking for information at his own expense, sort of like Rudy in Kiyiv but not exactly since he wasn't the president's personal attorney but merely a member of Congress, and he wasn't offering Assange a bribe to say the thing Trump (and presumably Putin) wanted to hear, only a voice of support should he happen to feel like saying it.

So now at least one more shoe has dropped in an interesting way, in reporting by NBC News, from the hearings in London where Assange is currently fighting extradition to face trial for espionage in the United States:

Assange's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said she saw then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Trump associate Charles Johnson make the offer during an August 2017 meeting at London's Ecuadorian Embassy, where Assange was evading arrest at the time. His seven-year stay there came to an end in April 2019 when Ecuador revoked his political asylum and invited police officers inside to arrest him.

Rohrabacher and Johnson said Trump knew about the meeting and approved offering Assange what they described as a "win-win" proposal, according to Robinson's statement provided to Assange's hearing in Old Bailey court.

The lawyer is a witness to the transaction in question and has offered sworn testimony to the effect that the quid pro quo offer of a pardon for what would clearly have been fabricated evidence (there's no longer room for doubt as far as I'm concerned as to who Wikileaks got the emails from) took place. The report ("Assange's lawyers say") is now sworn evidence ("an eyewitness testifies"), and that seems like a big deal.

"Trump associate Charles Johnson", incidentally, is the gnome with the ginger neckbeard known to us as Chuck C. Johnson, the worst troll in the universe ca. 2015 (and a horrible thorn in the side to the publisher and chief correspondent of the Little Green Footballs blog, who has the misfortune to be named Charles C. Johnson as well), who is said to have arranged the meeting, and also to be the guy who initiated the peculiar correspondence between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr. that began in September 2016 and went on until some time in July 2017, barely weeks before the Rohrabacher-Assange meeting. 

Maybe Rohrabacher really never did speak on the subject with President Trump because he spoke with Junior instead.

Robinson said she and Assange asked the men to make the case to Trump that he should be released purely on First Amendment grounds, noting that President Barack Obama had already commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst previously sentenced to 35 years for giving classified information to WikiLeaks.

I pretty much agree with that. I have no fondness for Assange, but I don't think he should be regarded as having committed a crime in his work with Manning (the case is real but a matter of such minute technical detail, involving one tiny moment in the otherwise entirely legal relationship, that it's hard to believe it can be prosecuted), and I'm glad to see he rejected the proffered bribe (though perhaps he just assumed he didn't have the skill to fake it), and I kind of hope the Old Bailey judge ends up rejecting the extradition request. But on Rohrabacher, and Trump, there's no doubt in my mind, and I think it's another impeachment case.

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